Bear Creek Trail #9W10
ElevationAscent: 1,053' 321 m
Descent: -2,709' -826 m
High: 4,280' 1,305 m
Low: 1,639' 500 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 32% (18°)
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“This 10.2-mile long trail follows Bear Creek upstream.”— John McKinney
Family Friendly Lower portion of trail is ideal for families enjoying a gentle, streamside hike.
To reach the lower trailhead, take Hwy. 39 from Azusa to the West Fork Picnic Area located on the west side of the highway immediately after crossing the bridge over the West Fork. Cross the pedestrian bridge and follow the paved road upstream for about 1 mile to where it crosses the stream. Turn left and go past the trail signs and under the bridge. The trail follows the stream for 4.5 miles then ascends steeply up to Smith Mountain Saddle.
There are 2 primitive trail camps about 1 mile past the road (no campfires allowed). The first 2 miles are in good shape with many stream crossings but the trail condition deteriorates where the canyon makes a large bend and narrows. From there, one has to follow ducks and ribbons marking the route through the canyon bottom and is recommended for experienced hikers only.
To reach the upper trailhead, take Hwy. 39 from Azusa to the wide parking area approximately 0.2 miles south of Coldbrook Campground. There is a restroom, picnic tables, trash cans and a wilderness information sign. The trail gently climbs 3 miles of mostly shadeless chaparral to Smith Mountain Saddle then descends 2.5 miles down to Bear Creek. Follow the stream down about 50' then cross it to pick up the trail on the west side where it passes a meager trail camp.
A popular destination is Smith Mountain (5111'). Take the upper trail 3 miles from Hwy. 39 to Smith Mountain Saddle then head south to climb the steep ridge for about 0.5 miles to the summit.
Thanks to John McKinney, The Trailmaster, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about trails in California, check out his guides at The Trailmaster Store.
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